Muscle group: The abdominal muscles
Trained muscle: All parts of the abdominal muscles
Focused muscle: Rectus abdominis (straight abdominal muscle)
Type of training: Machine exercises
Ab exercises can be performed in many different ways with various tools. Such equipment helps us to develop more motivation and vary our training. But within the ab training we also have many very intense exercises that do not require any equipment, like the abdominal crunch, the plank, or leg lifts. The following selection gives you an idea of different pieces of equipment that can be used for your abdominal training.
Ab exercises with equipment
For all ab exercises it is important to start with low weights or intensities. Otherwise there would be the risk of overcoming the resistance mostly with the strength of the hip flexors instead of focusing on curling the trunk. As your training level increases it is quite recommendable to more and more work out in the area of highest muscle tension (best form of exercise). Especially for this training method it is important to avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways) at any time.
Ab exercises on the cable machine
Ab exercises on the cable machine can be performed in sitting or kneeling position using a rope. For the seated version we use an incline bench. Incline the seat cushion of the bench on the first or second level. Take a seat with your back facing the cable machine and the cable coming from behind. Your feet fixate under the foot of the bench. Hold the rope with both hands on your chest. From that position curl your trunk without bending your hip joints.
For the kneeling version we use a gym mat, a cushion, or similar. Kneel in front of the machine right below the cable. Fixate the rope with both hands on your chest. Curl your trunk to the front using your abdominal muscles and avoid the activation of your hip flexors
Ab exercises on the machine
There are different machines for the abdominal training. Most of them work with a similar motion sequence curling the trunk. Sit down inside of the ab crunch machine and fixate your feet in the respective fixture (cushion rolls, footrest, etc.). Also fixate the upper body by grabbing the respective handles. Curl your trunk solely with the power of your ab muscles and try not to activate the hip flexors. Also try not to pull down the handles with your arms, what would activate the latissimus.
The ab twister represents a machine with a quite different motion sequence. Here, we rotate the legs especially using our obliques. Investigations performed by Buskies W., Boeckh-Behrens W. (2010) showed that the intensity of this exercise is extremely low. It is recommended to not use this kind of machine for the training of the abdominal muscles.
Ab exercises with the ab roller
Ab exercises with the ab roller are quite popular because of the comfortable neck position. Lay down with your head on the respective cushion and try to relax your neck. Your hands grab the bow right above your head. Have your heels press into the floor or lift your legs from the ground. From that position curl your trunk with the power of your abs. Try not to use your arms pushing the bow to the front, what would activate the latissimus and decrease the intensity for your abdominals.
Ab exercises with the ab slider
Ab exercises with the ab slider are well-known from commercials. We don’t necessarily need the slider for the workout. On plain ground we could easily use a towel as well. We start in kneeling position. It is recommended to use a gym mat or cushion to protect the knees. Grab the ab slider (or the towel) with both hands and start sliding forward in a smooth and controlled movement. Don’t go all the way down but stop approximately on the half of the way. Pull back to the starting position.
This ab exercise has to be taken with care. Especially in the end position the lower back is strained considerably what could worsen or even cause back problems. There also are extreme versions of this exercise that slide all the way to the front or even lift the knees. In these variations the lower back is strained even more what makes this exercise a no go for health-oriented athletes.
There certainly are many more ab exercises that use other pieces of equipment. Important for you to know is that there actually is no need for tools and machines when it comes to the workout of the abdominals. Exercises using the own body weight can be very intense and offer a large variety at the same time.
Antagonist: Lower back muscle
Stretching: Abdominal stretches
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